From Adams to Beethoven, a sizzling night of music
A review of the July 18, 2012 concert in the Seattle Chamber Music Society Summer Festival. The next festival concert is July 20.
Special to The Seattle Times
Seattle Chamber Music Society Summer FestivalContinues through July 29, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $45, $15 for students (206-283-8808 or www.seattlechambermusic.org).
Our summer weather may be fizzling, but inside the Nordstrom Recital Hall on Wednesday evening, it was sizzling.
A lengthy and ambitious program found musicians of the Seattle Chamber Music Society in incendiary form for works spanning the familiar (Beethoven, Ravel) and the less frequently heard (Sergei Taneyev, John Adams). These diverse performances had one factor in common: the excellence of the impassioned, committed players.
The opening performance of Taneyev's large-scale and imposing String Quintet in G Major took its tone from white-hot playing of first violinist Stefan Jackiw, in every respect a leader. His expert ensemble included violinist Augustin Hadelich, violist Cynthia Phelps, and cellists Ronald Thomas and Efe Baltacigil. The performance sounded positively symphonic, with the strings creating a wide array of colors and effects that were rich in detail. From Jackiw's exquisite cadenza to a surging waltz theme in the final movement, the quintet was a study in interpretive finesse; it sounded as if the five players were a long-standing permanent ensemble.
The festival returned to this season's focus on duo-piano repertoire for two pieces in the middle of the program: John Adams' "Hallelujah Junction" (for two pianos) and Beethoven's Op. 6 Sonata for Piano, Four Hands. Adams brought out his familiar motoric, propulsive technique in a work that made the listener supremely conscious that the piano is a percussion instrument. The two very fine players, Orion Weiss and Adam Neiman, hammered expertly through the score, returning to give a more delicate and nuanced performance of the Beethoven Sonata.
Sunny, shimmering and subtle, the Ravel String Quartet in F Major wound up the program with a performance that was just flat-out beautiful. All vivid colors and dramatic contrasts, the quartet featured four very strong players: violinists James Ehnes and Amy Schwartz Moretti, violist Richard O'Neill and cellist Robert deMaine. With a patrician lead from Ehnes, and urgent, committed playing from the ensemble, each movement of the Ravel was like another twist of an exotic kaleidoscope. The near-capacity audience stood and cheered, grateful to be in the house on such a shining night.
An added plus: as always, the lucid and intelligent program notes of Steven Lowe were a pleasure to read.
Melinda Bargreen also reviews concerts for 98.1 Classical KING FM. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.